It’s well-known that George Mason Law School has a libertarian and conservative-leaning faculty, unique among non-religiously affiliated law schools in the United States. What’s odd, though, is that law school guides consistently state that George Mason has a very conservative student body. Princeton Review, for example, ranks George Mason number 4 for have the “most conservative students.”
This doesn’t comport with my experience. Just for fun, I conducted an anonymous online presidential straw poll for my Con Law I class. The result was twice as many votes for Obama as for Romney (with one vote for Johnson). It was at least possible that this was an anomaly, especially because my class is composed primarily of evening students and transfers. But then Ilya surveyed his Con Law I day class, and got a nearly identical result. [UPDATE: Ilya just posted his final results above, and they are somewhat less pro-Obama than mine, though still pro-Obama. I had based the “nearly identical result” comment on non-final results.]
I pointed out back in 2010 that GMU students may perceive their classmates as being more conservative than they really are for the following reasons:
GMU is neither a religious school, nor is it located in a conservative part of the country. Rather, the school is in Arlington, a liberal county, and next to D.C., an even more liberal jurisdiction. Our students often come from liberal universities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. So compared to what one might expect from a secular law school in a liberal part of the world, the student body seems quite conservative. And indeed, there is no other school on P.R.’s top 10 list that is not either religious, located in a conservative region, or both.
Second, some (small) fraction of GMU students come here precisely because they prefer a non-overwhelmingly-left-wing political environment, which is what they would get at every one of the schools we primarily compete with for students. These students are disproportionately likely to speak up in class, and thus make the student body seem more conservative than it really is.
In any event, I sometimes hear of students that don’t want to attend George Mason because they think they will be part of a tiny left-leaning minority in an ocean of “right-wing” students, and I thought it worth pointing out that this assumption is wildly inaccurate.